Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who's gonna make us?

Despite Rick Berman’s outstanding work as an industry Doberman, public-advocacy zealots are growing bolder in their attempts to bully the trade. Consider, for instance, the letter that was reportedly sent to Bill Allen, chief executive of Outback parent OSI Restaurant Partners Inc. Penned by an anti-abortion group called Life Decisions, the letter warned Allen that the various brands in his charge could be hit with a boycott if the company ever again made a donation to Planned Parenthood, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times. Never mind that OSI’s lone dealing with Planned Parenthood, a group that champions contraception and family planning, was a “small” contribution by a single restaurant on the West Coast in 2005.

One restaurant, out of the 1,400 operated under OSI’s umbrella, making a single donation two years ago. The company hasn’t so much as advertised on a program that could be construed as pro-choice. Yet Life Decisions is threatening to steer customers away from the concern unless it does the group’s bidding.

The abortion debate is irrelevant to the matter. The issue is the attempt by a group with an avowed agenda to strong-arm a neutral company into acting in accordance with the advocate’s stance. Regardless of how anyone feels about abortion, that sort of bullying is just plain wrong.

To his credit, Allen apparently ignored the ultimatum. The Times reported that he called Life Decision’s bluff by not responding. He needs to stand firm against that sort of coercion, for the sake of reason as well as the independence of his company. It might just be a much-needed stroke of sanity for the whole industry.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree with you more.

    A company like OSI who has shown very little in the past as to any political stance should simply not even dignify any threats from organizations like this.

    Allen is doing the right thing here.